If you’re in the market for stodgy state propaganda packaged as a hip and transparent dive into one of our country’s most fucked up institutions, ma’am do I have the podcast for you. The CIA has gotten into the podcast game and released the first episode of The Langley Files on Thursday. The whole thing feels very “how do you do, fellow kids?” if the undercover cop asking that question had also given human subjects LSD without their consent. People joke about Adnan Syed’s release being the end of podcasting, but it seems we have found the real culprit: the CIA’s hilarious attempt at transparency.
The episode starts with dramatic plucking strings that underscore the host, only known as “Dee” (the other host is “Walter”), as she describes an inscribed quote at the CIA headquarters: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Ok, babe. The CIA H\headquarters are located in Langley, Virginia, for the sleuths out there trying to figure out the podcast’s namesake. Everything that follows that intro is the most lukewarm, underwhelming hogwash I’ve ever listened to.
The episode manages to stretch 18 minutes out of the question everyone is already asking: “Why does the CIA have a podcast?” “Dee” and “Walter” have about as much personality as a greyed silhouette of a mystery figure. In their best Schweddy Balls impression, they use terms like “demystify,” “misconceptions,” and “Russia is a declining power.” Oh, and they also squeeze in that the agency is looking to hire Mandarin speakers to combat China’s growing superpower. No need to run ads when you can just seamlessly weave recruitment material into the convo! The only fragment of self-awareness the podcast offers is the outro, when the host says, “From all of us here at CIA, we’ll be seeing you.”
The guest of the first episode, CIA Director William Burns, joins the hosts to answer everyone’s biggest question about the agency itself:
Were they behind JFK’s assassination? Is their job anything like Hollywood says it is? Apparently, no. But Burns does offer really incredible insights into being the CIA director, like the fact that he drives a 2014 Subaru Outback, he has trouble working his Roku remote, and last month, he stopped by the 9/11 Museum to reflect on the time he killed Al-Qaeda co-founder Ayman al-Zawahiri in an airstrike. For some reason, he didn’t mention the CIA’s whoopsy-daisy tendency to also kill civilians during their airstrikes. Episode two probably covers that.
Obviously, we aren’t naive enough to think that any worthwhile information would come out of a CIA-backed podcast about the CIA. But honestly, if you want a good guffaw at how impressively shortsighted the agency’s public-facing content capabilities are, I recommend a listen. Though, perhaps while I’m laughing at how completely ludicrous The Langley Files is, I’m overlooking the real possibility that it’s an elaborate psyop to undercut Russian power and humiliate Putin. That I’d believe.